Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Review: Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine (PS3)

Review: Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine (PS3)
Hack 'n Slash then Shoot 'n Bash
Written by: Donnie Fewkes

This review is not from someone who is intimately acquainted with the characters and lore of the Warhammer universe, but instead is a look through the eyes of an avid gamer that has never had any 40K experience. My very first exposure to Warhammer came when I was much younger and had traveled to my local hobby shop to buy my latest Pokémon CCG booster pack. I saw the posters of Warhammer figures and although I was never into table top type games, I was sorely tempted to buy some Space Marines for my own fun times. My next encounter with that universe came in the form of Warhammer 40K: Space Marine for the PlayStation 3 – a fun and enjoyable game that ultimately offers little more than an opportunity to cruise and bruise through countless waves of identical enemies in a world that you may (or may not) be familiar with.
I have never been so interested in something I know so little about.
Coming off my last review of Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (A game that demanded I sacrifice a few dozen hours of my time as well as my left ring finger) I was ready for something a little more mindless and arcade-y. I found that experience in Warhammer 40,000:Space Marine.

Why it’s fun (Gameplay)

Space Marine handles well and benefits from tight controls and an overall polish that generally is accompanied by AAA titles. The AI works adequately as enemies will find cover if they are using ranged weapons and will rush up to attack you if they are wielding more primitive ones. During my 8 hour romp with Space Marine, I came across only one or two times where an Orc was caught, endlessly running into a wall or actually stuck in a piece of space debris. No small success for a day and age where day-one patches are more common than not. 
The game runs smoother than your blade cuts Orcs.
At first glance, an individual might claim that in terms of combat, this is little more than Dynasty Warriors 40K: Space Marine…. they’re right. The gameplay here is not going to win any awards. Hordes of Orcs and other beasties barrel down hallways and open spaces alike, essentially lining up to be slaughtered. But what Space Marine does to break up the otherwise monotonous gameplay is rather ingenious. As opposed to other hack and slash style games, Space Marine’s bad guys, without being cheap, will actually hurt you badly if you aren’t paying attention. You learn very quickly that while you can definitely just rush through and deliver killing blows with every swipe of your battle axe, the snipers and grenadiers will treat you like Nintendo treats gamers who want better graphics or online play (Zing!). You learn very quickly that evasive actions and a steady trigger finger will save your life more often than your most powerful melee attacks.
I know I'm spoiled on good games when I can say to this image "Been there, done that."
A welcome diversion to the combat comes in the form of executions. After dealing enough damage to any single enemy, the opportunity will come to press a button and initiate a tiny, yet gruesome, quick-time-event of your character killing that enemy. The reason this is so welcome, is because even the lightest of Orc infantry can deplete your health, and executions will grant you a small portion of your health bar back. So in the thick of battle, you have the opportunity to replenish your health and make it through even the grimmest of situations. The way that the developers have managed to keep this from being a game breaking “Easy-Button” is during your 2-3 second execution, the enemy is free to just OM NOM you mercilessly. Potentially making it so you wind up with less health than when you started.

Overall, Space Marine doesn’t pretend to be more than it is, but at the same time makes enough changes to the wash, rinse, and repeat gameplay to keep hacking and slashing a fresh and varied experience until the final curtain.

Why I cared (Story: Spoiler-FREE)

The opening cinematic, although largely just text, really sets the tone and foundation for your deployment onto the planet that is the setting of the game. It’s not frantic, but serious. The Orcs have invaded a planet that contains military secrets and weapons that are vital to our cause. One thing that I really enjoyed about Space Marine is while you are seen as the elite of the elite of soldiers in that universe, you’re never expected to save the day single-handedly. No, you’re job is to secure crucial military assets until the cavalry can arrive. This is something that really tickled my Elmo because it seems so much more believable than the single super soldier deployed to save a planet.
Not pictured: Any Elmo's being tickled.
Among these Marines, you play as Captain Titus, a burly man’s man with an appetite for honor and glory. "Honour" and "gloury" rather, seeing as how even the Orcs have horrible English accents (seriously though, after relinquishing Hong Kong to China, did Great Britain go on to colonize all the known universe? Anyway…). Titus is a great character that exemplifies all that is righteous and honorable even if he has some questionable “relationships”. For this type of game, Titus and his two companions are great characters. The only real problem I see in them is two of the three Space Marines have these entirely weird and off-putting “moles” on their foreheads that seem to stare into my soul. They are super gross, but maybe they serve some purpose in the Warhammer Lore I’ve missed in my 0 years of following the franchise. The story flows well and I never felt like I was left behind. I always knew why my current objective needed to be protected/destroyed and why certain events occurred. That being said, this can mean the story will be overly simple for some. The “X is why Y is happening, so let’s kill everyone” storyline doesn’t necessarily appeal to the most hardcore. But what story is there is enough for what the game wants to accomplish. It was at least enough to keep me interested and definitely made me want to get to my objective and save the day.
"Dear Diary, Today I killed aliens because they're different from me."
The Working Gamer Test (Closing Statements)

For those of us with more disposable income than the average gamer, we’ve come to realize that we aren’t really voting for games with our dollars, but instead we’re voting with the limited amount of time we have to play them. The question always remains then, should I invest my time in this game? Warhammer 40K: Space Marine is not the killer app of 2011 so unless you’re a hardcore fan of the franchise or hack and slash games, don’t pass up or rush through other great games to play this. With that being said, Space Marine is a great game that definitely deserves a play through if you’ve run out of the 13 must play games of 2011 or if you’ve just finished a rather story heavy game and need a little mindless fun to buffer the next million hour RPG to exit Bethesda’s doors. I don’t feel like my time with Space Marine was wasted like it was when I pre-ordered and played through Pokémon Snap (I was like 10, okay?). But there are so many other great games out there that have come out around the same time that really should be played first. I’ll repeat my opening statement because that pretty much sums up the whole thing, “[Space Marine] is a fun and enjoyable game that ultimately offers little more than an opportunity to cruise and bruise through countless waves of identical enemies in a world that you may (or may not) be familiar with."

Overall: 7.0

Message from Dark Link:

Skip GameStop for this one. Even though vgpc.com currently values this game at $20.23, this bad boy can be bought for only $13.90 in "like new" condition from Amazon.com.

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